DAVAO CITY (21 August 2022) — Heeding President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s call for national unity, the leaders of the country’s top Moro organizations have finally set aside their differences as they vowed to advance the welfare of the Bangsamoro people.
“We are hoping for President [Ferdinand] “Bongbong” Marcos[, Jr.] to succeed in his administration…We are behind him…You can tell the President that the Muslim brothers and sisters in the south are all behind him,” Prof. Nur Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), told Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., during the latter’s visit in this Southern Mindanao city on Thursday.
Galvez presented to Misuari the MNLF members who were appointed by President Marcos as members of parliament of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) last August 12 in Malacañang.
In a separate meeting in Cotabato City, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim gave his commitment to Galvez that the BTA will fast-track the passage of the region’s remaining codes within the year.
Among the key concerns discussed during the meeting between Galvez and Ebrahim were the passage of the BARMM’s critical codes; the improvement of the delivery of basic services in the region; and the need to start laying the groundwork for the 2025 BARMM regional elections.
In an earlier statement, Ebrahim expressed the MILF’s full support to the President’s call for unity.
“As we continue our duties in the interim government, we join the President’s call towards national unity and set aside whatever differences that divide us,” Ebrahim said.
Thankful to PBMM
“We are deeply grateful to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. for understanding the importance of our work during the extension of the transition period, and to assure that we can install a bureaucracy that can address the needs of our people for generations to come,” the chief minister said.
“We are equally grateful for President Marcos’ eagerness to assure that the new Bangsamoro Transition Authority is composed of meaningful representation from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, sectoral groups, and other important stakeholders across the region, making the BTA Parliament a chamber for all voices to be heard,” he added.
In another meeting held in Davao City with Galvez, the MNLF members of the BTA who come from two separate groups – the one led by Misuari and the other by the late Yusoph Jikiri, and Muslimin Sema – embraced each other in a show of unity.
The gathering, the first of its kind to be held between the two MNLF groups in recent history, was historic as it symbolized the healing of old wounds and their commitment to work together for the welfare of the Bangsamoro people.
Member of Parliament (MP) Albakil “Tong” Jikiri thanked President Marcos for playing a key role in the unification of the two MNLF groups.
“Nagpapasalamat kami sa mahal na Presidente… Ang MNLF ngayon, nakikita namin na magiging isa na ngayon,” Jikiri, the son of Yusoph Jikiri, said.
“Lahat ng mga member ng parliament, dapat magkaisa. Kailangan one BTA para sa Bangsamoro,” he added.
For his part, MP Omar Sema, the son of Muslimin Sema, said that the MNLF and MILF “have reached an agreement on many occasions on how to go about the transition process.”
“There are agreements between us that define our relationship, our vital participation in the BTA,” Sema said.
For years, the MNLF leadership split into groups due to differences.
With the unity call of President Marcos, the Bangsamoro leaders have agreed to set aside their differences and joined the BTA, along with other representatives of the different sectors residing in the Bangsamoro area.
The show of solidarity among the MNLF and between the MILF is considered a major milestone in the Bangsamoro peace process, as it is seen as the key in ensuring that the BTA will be able effectively carry out its mandate and complete its deliverables come 2025.
The new BTA is expected to pass the remaining codes. These include the Bangsamoro Local Governance, Indigenous Peoples’ Electoral, and Revenue Codes.
The previous BTA had passed three codes —- the Administrative, Civil service and Education Codes.
The passage of these codes will be crucial in the Bangsamoro government’s efforts to boost the region’s socio-economic development and uplift the lives of its people, and carry-out its functions as an autonomous region.
The President has earlier thrown his full support behind the BARMM’s march towards progress and achieved its mission.
“Such important laws to be passed in three years is not an easy task, and that’s why I will be here as head of the national government to support BARMM,” he said during the oath-taking ceremony of the BTA.
AFP, MILF ground commanders to protect the Bangsamoro peace process
Meanwhile, Ebrahim also paid a courtesy call to Major General Roy Galido, the newly-installed commander of the 6th Infantry Division at its headquarters in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao province on Friday.
During a meeting among Galvez, Ebrahim, and Galido, the military official conveyed the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ full support to the Bangsamoro peace process, as it committed to involve its various units in settling lateral conflicts such as “ridos” or clan wars in coordination with the Philippines National Police and the GPH-MILF ceasefire mechanisms.
In a statement, Ebrahim said the “clan war greatly affects the peace and order as well as the progress of the province. I am very satisfied [with] the actions of 6ID, including the local government being our partner in crafting solutions to disputing Moro family.”
Galido said the military will work closely with the leadership of the BARMM in order to help sustain the gains of the peace process.
Meanwhile, at least 15 MILF commanders in Central Mindanao pledged to ensure the primacy of the peace process in their areas following their meeting with Sec. Galvez.
“We hit the ground running following the appointment of the new BTA members and the commitment of President Marcos, Jr., to put a premium on the Bangsamoro peace process. We need to ensure the guidance of the President to fully implement the Bangsamoro peace agreements and to push forward the Bangsamoro peace process in Mindanao,” Galvez said.